Life in Transformation

I greet you with hands clasped together in gratitude for this beautiful day.

Life is transformation. I can think of several individuals in my life who would disagree with this notion. Then again, those same individuals would disagree with just about any notion which identifies the personal responsibility with which we need to take to transform our lives.

I am coming up to the first scheduled day off since May. It’s been a long time I know. I’ll be heading back to the Adirondacks for some quiet time which will include a lot of reading, a lot of writing as I work toward completion of my book. This time will be punctuated with several sips of bourbon and some Puterkos Pizza.

Fall is upon us. The light of each day grows progressively shorter. We inch closer to the Winter Solstice. It’s that time of year when we begin to once again regain precious minutes of daylight. The calendar, at the same time, inching closer to the new arrival of Spring.

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I woke this morning to rays of beautiful sunshine peeking through the slats of the blinds. One of my joys is having an opportunity to wake without an alarm. Another joy are the beautiful sounds coming from the birds at the freshly filled feeder and the smell of freshly brewed coffee. It is these simple things which bring me the most joy. The joy I find in such simplicity reminds me not to take life too seriously, to not worry about the things which I cannot control and to live each day to its fullest.

“When you go out into the woods and you look at the trees, you see all these different trees and some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are green and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it, you see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans you lose all that. And you’re constantly saying “you are too this,” or “I am to this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees, which means appreciating them just the way they are.” ~Ram Dass

If you think that life is a journey to some sort of destination you could not be more wrong. I understand your thoughts right now because we have all heard the sayings on the t-shirts and bumper stickers which remind us that “life is a journey.” If we think of life as a journey then we keep going faster and faster to reach this unknown destination. Life is transformation. Life is a transformation. We are reminded of this every day while also being reminded of the opposite. We are constantly changing, evolving, and improving. Our growth has nothing to do with speed. In fact it often this need for speed, the need to reach a believed destination which causes us to stumble and make decisions which may not be in our best interest. We need to slow down and assess our direction. We need to ask ourselves what we are transforming into. Every Sunday I receive a text message that asks, “Slow down and ask what you have learned this past week?” What have I learned that can impede my transformation and which can help my transformation excel? Am I a better person today than I was yesterday? Better than last week, last month, last year?

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I use photography to help better understand the path on which I am on. I look at my photographs, camera in hand to see how I can see my life and its surroundings differently.

How do you see yourself? When you look at yourself, do yourself a favor and don’t blame others for the condition of your life. Your decisions are just that, your decisions. If you look to blame others, you will find the hole in which you are in become ever deepening. Accept responsibility for your actions. Ask for help from honest individuals and develop a plan that will help you achieve the goals which you have set.

Namaste

The Gospel of Nature

I greet you with hands clasped together in gratitude.

I am here.

I stopped by the Niagara River this evening with my journal in hand. I needed to see the sunset, to feel the warmth of the sun’s rays, to feel the breeze and listen to the sound of crickets as their music entertains my ears. Those things are integral to me and to my ability to feel grounded in the insanity with which we define our world.

In between peeks at the setting sun, I was reading an essay by John Burroughs called, “The Gospel of Nature.” I am struggling to maintain my focus as I read, the sounds of nature are overpowering but in a good way.

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“I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in order.
A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.
Leap and the net will appear.” – John Burroughs

Recently we experienced a full moon, a Supermoon. The brilliance of the light reflected will provide enough light to continue to read but I decide against continuing to read and instead focus on my breath. I time my breath with the sound of water lapping at the shoreline.

Namaste

The Long Weekend

I greet you with both hands clasped together in gratitude.

I’m here. I arrived at my home away from home yesterday, the Adirondacks. I came “home” because I needed time to rebalance my life. This is the place where it is easiest for me. My phone does not usually work and there are many miles of hiking/running trails to be had within a few minutes drive.

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Puterko’s pizza was not to be had. The owners decided to take an ill-timed vacation. Their vacation was ill-timed in that I love this pizza and look forward to eating some slices when I arrive here. NY style pizza with the thinnest of crusts and delicious!!

I woke Saturday morning with the idea of revisiting some places within the Adirondack Park which I had not visited in several years. I look forward to fall every year. There is something magical in the colors which begin to slowly appear on the leaves of the trees which blanket the countryside. These same leaves, soon will fall from their perch and blanket the ground in those same bright colors. Those same colors will soon begin to fade and they will be forgotten with the first snow.

Henry David Thoreau says it best in his description of fall. “October is the month of painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round the world. As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint just before they fall, so the year nears its setting. October is its sunset sky; November the later twilight.” – Henry David Thoreau

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My first stops were Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. I stopped at one of my favorite put-ins on the Middle Saranac Lake and reminisced about past paddles on this lake. I stopped in Lake Placid for a quick visit. There is much history in this town with both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics being held. After a brief walk through town and a stop at a bookstore, I remembered what I struggle with when I visit this town. That memory was brought to the front of my memory when outside a wine store was a white Ferrari. Now I hold nothing against this beautiful car or its owner who I do not even know. It is the attitude of many of the visitors, visitors such as these with which I struggle. I took my book and made my way back to my car with a new destination in mind. As I walked, I enjoyed the light rain which fell giving the area a fresh scent.

As I walked briskly along the sidewalks in Lake Placid, this small town for which I have a love/hate relationship, I found anxiety beginning to rise. I needed to leave, to travel down the road and away from the throngs of people. I needed to return to the woods and the cathedral which is the woods with its silence and brilliant colors displayed for all who wish to see. Thoreau said, “An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” I could not agree with this more.

I traveled to Whiteface Mountain and marveled at its beauty. The summit of the mountain was bathed in fog as the rain which has accompanied me since the start of this trip, remained. It was this rain and the accompanying temperatures which brought the fog. More beautiful memories were made this day. I remained at the base of the mountain not wanting to take the time to travel to its summit as “a lot of snow” was being forecast later in the day. Not to mention, I had a strong desire to return to the Ausable Chasm. I haven’t seen the chasm in all of it’s fall glory in several years and this was a sight I did not want to miss. Whiteface was otherwise bathed in the beautiful but fading colors of fall. The colors, had I arrived a week earlier and the sun had been shining would have been even more delightful to behold. Regardless, their beauty did captivate me. Several times I stopped in pull offs along the Ausable River to snap photos and to write in my journal.

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Not to mention, I had a strong desire to return to the Ausable Chasm. I haven’t seen the chasm in all of its fall glory in several years and this was a sight I did not want to miss. Whiteface was otherwise bathed in the beautiful but fading colors of fall. The colors had I arrived a week earlier and the sun had been shining would have been even more delightful to behold. Regardless, their beauty did captivate me. Several times I stopped in pull offs along the Ausable River to snap photos and to write in my journal.

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Driving back to Indian Lake from Ausable found rain continuing to fall. As I neared my final destination of the day, the rain became heavier and had begun to transform into sleet. Within several minutes the transformation was complete and it had begun to snow. My first snow of the year. I retired to my room to eat dinner, read and write. I heard a sound outside my window which carried with it the eerie feeling that winter in my neck of the woods would not be far behind. That sound was a plow clearing the street.

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On my solo drive home from the Adirondacks, I think about my return to my office feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I think about getting into a car again Friday evening, this time with company and traversing the highways as we travel to South Bend, Indiana to watch the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame take on Miami University.

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Namaste

Shinrin yoku

This post is reblogged from Scott Dunlap’s blog, “A Trail Runner’s Blog.”

Ever since I started trail running on a daily basis, I have felt a noticeable improvement in my well-being. I feel less stressed, I get sick less often, and I’ve found a spiritual calm that keeps my optimism brimming through the seasons. Many of you have shared similar experiences, and one has to look no farther than the smiles at the finish of a trail race (and growth of the sport) to know it is pervasive. That magical combo of exercise and the great outdoors creates a meditative synergy that works wonders for the soul, and we just can’t get enough.

We aren’t the only ones tapping into the healing powers of the outdoors, it appears. Japanese doctors, long time proponents of meditation and exercise, have been taking a closer look at the power of forests. The Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku, or “forest bathing”, involves contemplative walks through the woods to reconnect with nature, and has proven to lead to decreased stress, natural mood elevation, and even a stronger immune system. Take a luxurious walk, engage all five senses, inhale the “phytoncides” emitted by plants, and your body and soul get stronger.

The Japanese government continues to investigate and promote the healing properties of nature. One study conducted across 24 forests in Japan found that when people strolled in a wooded area, their levels of the stress hormone cortisol plummeted almost 16 percent more than when they walked in an urban environment. Even after just 15 minutes of walking, subjects’ blood pressure showed improvement. But one of the biggest benefits may come from breathing in those chemicals called phytoncides, emitted by trees and plants. Women who logged two to four hours in a forest on two consecutive days saw a dramatic reduction of stress hormones and a nearly 40 percent surge in the activity of cancer-fighting white blood cells.

In one of my favorite parts of the studies, research has shown that the emotions of pleasure and happiness are elevated with an increase in tree density within specific settings, even in urban settings. The bigger and denser the trees, the higher the scenic beauty scores. Yup, that sounds about right! I suspect this also contributes to the sense of awe that we feel when immersed in the grandiosity of Mother Nature.

Perhaps this is just confirming what we all intuitively know. Get outside, engage with nature, and you will feel healthier and more connected. As silly as it sounds to say “forest bathing”, it feels accurate! It’s also a good reminder we don’t always need to always be running, and that a 15-minute stroll is more than enough to improve your day. I’ll be taking a few pauses on my runs this week to make sure all five senses are fully engaged. Smell the pines, taste the pollen in the air, feel the ferns, hear the creeks, watch the butterflies….you know, take a forest bath.

How to Avoid Burning Out

MakeItUltra™

burnout.jpg“A good rest is half the work.” ~Buddhist Proverb

1. Remember why you started
What has inspired you to be on the path you are on? Anytime we forget our roots or the purpose for why we are in our current situation, it is easy to see our challenges only as difficulties. How many challenges have you overcome to get where you are? I am sure there are too many to count. It might be helpful to write down or say out loud the reasons why you started your endeavor. What was your intention? What was your goal? It is important for us to take a step back and remember who, what or why we decided to put energy into something.

2. You are not what you do
How do you identify yourself? Take a moment to reflect on how you describe yourself. Would you describe yourself as caring, generous or loving? Would you describe…

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A Beautiful Day

I greet you with hands clasped together in gratitude. Gratitude for this beautiful day and this beautiful life.

This past Sunday, I was awarded with two exceptional items in my day. The first, my grandson’s presence at our home for the entire day. As sick as he was feeling and as unenergetic as he was, it remains a pleasure to have him grace our home with his presence. The other was the beautiful weather which accompanied Chase.

My Sunday morning went as smooth as it normally does. I take a few minutes to ask the question,”What good can I do this day?” This question is a daily question. It is a challenge to myself to be a better person every minute of every day. I am not perfect and I catch myself falling back into old ways; old behaviors. Difficulties only arise when I do not catch myself lingering in the past and do not acknowledge the work which remains. As I grow older, I am acutely aware my time on this plant is set. Like everyone else, I am unaware of my expiration date. There is no fear for me in death, there is however fear that I will not accomplish everything which I have set out to accomplish.

I digress as I desire to keep this post brief and to remain on point.

I rocked Chase to sleep, that beautiful feeling of contentment in my arms. I am having difficulty deciding if I want to continue to sit, holding him or put him down. I decide on the latter and decide to retreat outdoors. Before I do so, I gathered my journal, my newest addition to the fountain pen family which has been freshly inked, my journal, a favorite cigar, my lighter and a two fingers of one of my favorite whiskeys.

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I am immediately caught by the stunning scene as I exit my home. The sun, still high in the sky, its rays piercing through the still covered canopy of the maple tree in my backyard.

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The sweet smell of fall immediately strikes my nose; leaves which have recently fallen from their perch, the decay of the pumpkins being chewed upon by the neighborhood squirrels and the dew remaining on the grass. Yesterday, Stephen and I had raked all of the leaves and the grass was cut. Today, it was as if the grass was never touched; carpeted by a new covering of colorful leaves. A smile crosses my face and I retreat from the porch to my favorite Adirondack chair. I softly brush the leaves from the seat and place myself in the comfort of this chair. I clipped my cigar and touched the flame to the end and begin to puff. The smell of this exquisite smoke curls upward and eventually dissolves into nothingness. It is at this moment which I am reminded again of the briefness of life.

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I reach for my pen, a Visconti Homosapien freshly inked with a beautiful blue ink. The ink, I notice is the same blue as that of the sky.

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I open to the last page written and this beautiful nib glides effortlessly across the page, my thoughts flowing with the same ease. The pen, recapped, returns to it’s leather home and now I sit. I sit and simply take in the beauty that is this day.

Namaste

Writing, Depression & Other Things

With hands grasped in gratitude, I greet you on this beautiful day.

It’s a long weekend for me and I am happy to be enjoying an extra free day off this weekend. As I sat, my soul warmed with another cup of coffee and my Kindle, my mind began, as it often does to wander. I began to think about writing. It has been three months since my last post and almost three months since I have worked on my book.

It has also been almost three months since my last consistent run. This “streak” was interrupted just once by an attempt to test my knee. This “test” failed miserably and caused additional pain. I have had x-rays completed but the physician refused to discuss them with me when she believed this injury had been caused at work. This despite the numerous pages of information which I completed explaining the injury took place as a result of running. I find this to be an indictment of the current state of our medical profession and one, which within my own practice I work terribly hard to avoid. Regardless, I will reschedule with another physician and secure an accurate diagnosis.

Each week which goes by offers me increasing hope as the pain and discomfort continues to decrease. For this I am thankful for it offers some hope the injury will not require a surgical intervention.

I was frightened by the notion that I did not miss running, especially those runs which allowed me to start my day with some modicum of balance.

I have been reflecting on the last year and in some cases wish I could call a mulligan and have remained at the job which I had prior to the start of the last year. Since this is not a possibility, I have reflected on what I have learned in this last year.

Not to be cliché but I have learned the grass is not always greener on the other side. I have also learned it is not a bad thing to be happy with the status quo, to not wish for more, of anything but to be happy or to find happiness in what I already have.

I was reminded balance can be found in such things, that to not see the balance which I already have and to seek something for which the definition is unclear causes one to experience greater imbalance in one’s life. I stepped from the frying pan into the fire. I saw my physical health be called into question and I saw my love for running also being called into question. It culminated in me experiencing a panic attack while out for a very early run. The panic attack saw me sitting by the side of the road in tears with passersby wondering what was going on for me at 4:30 AM. Shortly thereafter I saw my physician and began a course of medication to help me manage these symptoms. I began the search for alternate employment. Finally this goal was reached but emotionally I still felt empty; like a ship bobbing on the waves in the open ocean sails flapping loosely in the breeze with not enough force to provide the energy necessary to move forward. My meditation practice faltered and finally halted and also became nonexistent. I had hung my hat on one decision, one belief, that a new place of employment would provide all the stress relief which I would need. This solved a small portion of my problem, the remainder lied in my belief that there was nothing else to question. Depression set in followed by anhedonia and a general feeling of malaise. I continued to run but even these were forced. The love which I had previously had for waking early in the morning now became a chore instead of a salvation. I still enjoyed the solitude I felt but I also felt myself withdrawing into myself; feeling sorry for myself. Everything became a chore. I functioned on autopilot and left unchecked ends up causing an accident. This “accident” was my knee injury. Even my journaling which provided as much solace as did my daily runs and something with which I found respite, waned and became almost nonexistent. Daily writing fell off to one or two days each week, then once each week. There were weeks where I was lucky if I even inked a fountain pen let alone knew the whereabouts of my journal. I retreated more and more into my head and found reading to be my one remaining constant.

Slowly but surely my energy began to return. I am not fully there but I feel my hope, my desire to return to enjoying the run beginning to increase. It was at first difficult for me to accept the fact that I could not run, despite knowing further pain and injury would certainly follow. This summer, one of our warmest on record and a time of year I look forward to running as it affords me the ability to run in only shorts and running shoes caused additional strain on my mood. Alas, it is what it is.

My own diagnosis is one which places a possible return to running around the turn of the year. Hopefully, with the advice of a doctor and the possibility of physical therapy I can at least comfortably return to some form of physical activity which will help ease my depression.

As I said in an earlier post, one of the greatest abilities we have, if we choose to accept it is our ability to be introspective.

Namaste